Underestimated: An Autism Miracle
By J.B. Handley and Jamison Handley
Underestimated: An Autism Miracle is the profoundly moving story of young Jamison Handley’s journey from imprisonment within his own body as an autistic non-speaker to full communication with his family, his friends and the entire world through a remarkable method known as “Spelling to Communicate” (S2C).
This inspiring book will have you feeling the entire range of emotions, from rage to elation. It’s told by Jamison (Jamie) and his amazing, dedicated father, J.B. Handley. Laid out in five parts, the book begins with seventeen-year-old Jamie’s year-long journey from being tragically misunderstood—and completely incapable of expressing his emotions, desires, brilliance and incredible insights and knowledge—to one unforgettable day when everything changes. That day, Honey, the parent of another non-speaker named Vince, messages J.B. to tell him that Vince is now communicating with a letterboard through a process called S2C—and Vince is rocking everyone’s world with his intelligence, wisdom and language skills. Honey encourages J.B. to investigate, assuring him that Jamie is highly intelligent and likely even more advanced than Vince.
Naturally, J.B. and his wife Lisa want to believe that everything that is possible for Vince is also possible for Jamie, but they are fearful of what J.B. calls “the most dangerous drug” for an autism parent: hope. The angst they feel is palpable, and the reader cannot help but experience what they go through. At this juncture, the Handleys have already tried so many approaches to help Jamie, including removing gluten, other dietary changes, vitamins, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, a fecal microbial transplant and more.
S2C (Spelling to Communicate) Autism Miracle
Still, S2C must be explored, so J.B. and Jamie head to Herndon, Virginia, to meet Elizabeth Vosseller (known as “EV”) at the Growing Kids Therapy Center. Once there, Elizabeth, immediately warm and focused, greets and treats Jamie just as one would treat any other capable, intelligent young man. Throwing seventy years of autism research out the window, Elizabeth proves the “experts” wrong, showing that the majority of people with autism are not cognitively impaired. Non-speakers are completely cognitive; they just cannot make their bodies do what they want or need them to do.
From frustration to happier and calm
The book progresses through the Handleys’ deeply emotional discovery of their ever-brilliant son (and brother), Jamie. They meet the wonderful Dawnmarie Gaivin (“DM”), the “West Coast’s leading guru of S2C,” who hits it off with Jamie from the start. The family’s lives change. The tears (sobbing, actually) and the unleashed emotions flow as the level-headed genius of their beloved Jamie emerges. It is simply stunning! Jamie also transitions, going from patterns of acting out the deep frustrations and anguish of entrapment and being misunderstood to being far more at ease—becoming a happier, calmer and participating member of his family and of life.
“…not allowing disability my define me”
In Part II, Jamie answers questions. One of several that stands out is when J.B. asks, “Is there one thing you are most proud of so far in life?” and Jamie answers: “I think I am most proud that I never allowed my disability to define me. I’m proud that I never gave up.” In Part III, the “Dude-Bro” speaks. The Dude-Bro is Jamie’s weekly online social hour where he and his non-speaker friends “hang out.” Here, Jamie and J.B. give Jamie’s friends a chance to speak as well.
Part IV explores the science and, unfortunately, the controversies surrounding S2C. There are people and organizations who claim that the words coming out of the letterboard are not those of the spellers but rather of their communication partners, like EV and DM. These doubters mean well—they don’t want non-speakers to be exploited—but in many cases, they quite stubbornly refuse to acknowledge S2C and the miracles it has created. This section, and Part V (focused on how to get started with S2C), are written to help parents of other non-speakers navigate the choppy waters that are bound to arise. This book gets a major thumbs-up.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Fall 2021🖨️ Print post